Getting under your undercarriage

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Undercarriage damage can be costly for machine owners and fleet managers at any time of the year. However, during the winter months, when we experience higher levels of rain, wind and freezing temperatures there can be even greater pressure on the machines. This is why Finning is urging fleet managers and owner operators to make checking their undercarriage one of their daily on-site tasks to avoid costly downtime and unplanned machine repairs. Here’s our resident undercarriage expert (and Wear Parts Product Manager), Cheryl Griffith, to explain how to check for signs of wear and damage to keep it ship shape. 

Do it daily

The state of a machine’s undercarriage can significantly impact performance. A well cared for undercarriage will help to maximise power, increase safety and stability and will keep operational repair costs to a minimum over a machine’s lifecycle.

A daily walk around a machine is a simple but very effective way for operators to identify any obvious issues or damage to the undercarriage. Not doing this can cost you – both in terms of any repairs needed – not to mention the costs associated with machine downtime.

Regularly checking your undercarriage will also enable you to get a clearer view on what worn looks like. The rate of wear, very much depends on the environment the machine is working in. For example, a machine operating in a quarry to excavate granite is putting a great deal of strain on the machine. While other materials such as clay or sand can increase the track tension when solidified.

Certain operational movements can also increase the level of undercarriage damage. These include, for example, making sharp turns, excessive reversing or driving at high speeds. In addition, not having the track tension correctly adjusted can also cause damage over time as will the build-up of dirt and debris causing tracks to stretch and then ultimately break.

Cleaning the tracks thoroughly, particularly in wintery conditions, is also essential to avoid materials drying or freezing on the undercarriage overnight. Scheduling regular maintenance sessions alongside frequent daily spot checks will reduce the risk of damage and more costly repairs down the line as well as reduced productivity.

Here are Cheryl’s top tips for keeping your undercarriage in tip top condition:

  • Inspect rubber tracks for cracks –  which may be a sign of belt fatigue – or damage such as deep cuts or chunks of material missing. Also check for exposed wire that forms the structure of the track.
  • Ensure rubber track treads protrude higher than the rubber belt and they are not separating from the belt.
  • Check any other rubber components for separation of material, cracking, damage, or missing parts.
  • Make sure that no steel track pads are missing, and that the grouser is still protruding well above the pad.
  • Check any track pad nuts and bolts to ensure that none are missing or have worked loose.
  • Look at the sharpness of the sprocket tooth – a sharp point indicates high wear.
  • Check roller and idler edges for sharpness, uneven wear, or excessive movement when tracking.
  • Look at the track movement on the frame when the machine is in operation – excessive movement could be a sign of a stretched track or other worn components.
  • Inspect the machine for any wet patches on links which may be a sign of leakage.
  • Ensure that track sag (the amount of tension applied to the track links) is correct. If you’re not sure – check the machine’s maintenance manual for information on how to do this correctly and for relevant specifications.
  • Always ensure that any material is cleaned out of the undercarriage regularly to stop ‘packing’ which can increase wear.

Finning offers a range of undercarriage repair and maintenance services and plans which can ensure machine operators and fleet managers achieve the lowest cost-per-hour support beyond the standard new machine or parts warranties. All repairs carried out by the expert team at Finning include a comprehensive service which comprises an inspection of all components to be reused for wear or cracking, and all hardware is torqued to Caterpillar specifications to ensure the correct amount of tension which reduces the risk of hardware coming loose.

For more information, to book a repair or to find out more about the undercarriage inspections available at Finning go to www.finning.com/en_GB/parts/new/undercarriage.html

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